New plan lays out ways to protect #LakePowell from #drought — KUER #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Glen Canyon Dam August 2021. The white on the sandstone reflects where the water level once was. Dropping levels at Lake Powell are forcing a reduction in outflows from the Glen Canyon Dam. Photo credit: USBR

From KUER (Lexi Peery):

The framework for how Upper Colorado River Basin states will respond to low water levels at Lake Powell is now out for public review.

It’s called the Drought Response Operations Plan, which is part of the larger Drought Contingency Plan signed in 2019. These policies were put in place because of the troubling hydrology in the region.

The four Upper Basin states, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico, are working with federal agencies to keep Lake Powell above critical levels. The drought response plan is triggered when Lake Powell’s elevation hits 3,525 feet. Just 35 feet below that is the lowest water level that still allows the Glen Canyon Dam to generate hydropower…

Boaters at Cedar Springs Marina on Flaming Gorge Reservoir. The reservoir’s levels are expected to drop 2 feet a month under an emergency release of water designed to keep Lake Powell’s hydropower system operating. July 22, 2021 Credit: Jerd Smith

The plan will be modified yearly depending on the water levels in the Colorado River Basin. It could include releases from reservoirs in the Upper Basin, including Flaming Gorge on the border of Utah and Wyoming.

Rod Smith, an attorney with the U.S. Department of the Interior, said this has been in the works since the Drought Response Operations Agreement was signed in 2019. He said they thought they’d have more time to lay out the framework, but last year sped up the process.

“What we saw instead were some particularly dry springtime numbers in 2021,” he said during a virtual presentation Friday afternoon. “We did not have as much time at that point relative to when we were projected to 3,525 [feet]. So it accelerated things a lot.”

[…]

The plan released Friday is a framework for how things will operate. It doesn’t include specifics because officials are waiting to see the totals for winter and spring precipitation…

The draft plan is open for public comment until Feb. 17. It’s expected to be completed in April.

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